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Cyclone losses top $400 million

Insured losses from Cyclone Debbie and flooding have climbed to an estimated $413 million from 46,817 claims, according to the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA).

The damage has topped losses from this year’s Sydney hailstorm, and claim numbers are expected to continue climbing as the impact is assessed in hard-hit areas of Queensland and NSW.

The event also caused flooding in New Zealand.

Insurers are paying $2 million a day in emergency support as companies mobilise response teams, ICA says in an update released on Friday.

IAG says its financial-year expectation for net natural peril claims costs has risen following the storm to $850 million from a previous assumption of $680 million. The company has also lowered its reported insurance margin guidance range to 10.5-12.5% from 12.5-14.5%.

“This is a highly unusual and complex event, with the devastating effects still being felt across north and southeast Queensland, northern NSW and New Zealand,” IAG CEO Peter Harmer said.

Debbie crossed the coast on March 28 as a Category 4 cyclone, the most powerful to hit Queensland since 2011 when Yasi caused $1.4 billion in insured losses.

Heavy rain caused flooding in towns including Rockhampton, prompting calls for a levee.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the State Government is positive about the levee funding proposal but needs the Federal Government to “come on board and help out”.

ICA warns that scammers posing as insurance company representatives and builders have approached victims demanding cash for clean-up, inspection and repair services.

“This racket is generally carried out by travelling conmen and women who typically target elderly or vulnerable householders, though business owners are also being approached,” CEO Rob Whelan said.

Qualified guilders and tradespeople who want to be considered for insurer-funded rebuilding work are advised to register with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission or the Master Builders Association of NSW.

“Insurers recognise local workers who participate in the reconstruction response provide a vital economic boost in communities that have taken a severe financial hit from this catastrophe,” Mr Whelan said.

SafeWork NSW says flood-affected homes may contain asbestos, and it is prioritising assessments and waiving a five-day notification period that usually applies before material can be removed.

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